September 28, 2010

Should You Stay with a Cheater?

(Reposted from Ask Dan and Jennifer)

The bad news is your long-term girlfriend cheated on you. The worse news is you don’t know whether to stay with her or not. Yet no one can decide for you. This is something you will have to come to terms with—whether that ends in a breakup or on the rough road to patching up your damaged relationship.

Why would you want to work it out?

Hopefully, this is because you truly love her and can’t picture your life without her. But maybe it is because you don’t want to be alone or to start over? If it is, stop reading right now, pick up the phone, and break the bad news to her. This is not a good reason to carry on any relationship, let alone one which is on the rocks.

Will she do it again?

This question will be the most important one to figure out. She has broken your trust, but is there any hope of repairing that trust? If you can’t learn to trust her again—and she isn’t trying to earn back that trust—this will be a lost cause. Here are some ways to do determine if this were a one-time mistake which she truly regrets…or the first of many more “I’m sorry”s to come:

- Did she admit to the affair—or did you find out?
- Was she apologetic or defiant and indifferent?
- Has she taken any steps to regain your trust or to improve the relationship yet?
- Will she see the other man again? If so, in what capacity?

Can you get over this?

You may have forgiven her and you may trust her to not stray again. But if you can’t forget what happened, this relationship will not last. Every time you have sex, you may wonder if he performed better, if she preferred his body to yours, or if she envisioned him instead of you. Yet it may not be about her at all. You might think, “Well, if she got to sleep with someone else, why shouldn’t I? Then we will be even.” This tit-for-tat mentality may sound like a brilliant idea in your head; but trust me, the world is not always fair and neither are relationships. If you want it to last, sleeping with a stranger of your own is not the way to do it.

What did you do wrong?

Politically correct answer: nothing. She cheated, so she is the bad guy.

Truth-that-hurts answer: probably something.

What “victims” of cheating never like to admit is that they are occasionally at fault—at least partially. While they may not have forced their lovers upon another, they may have contributed to the act. Think about your own relationship: has your sex drive dwindled recently? have you not been appreciative or attentive? While this may have come as a blow, it certainly couldn’t hurt to think about what exactly led her to the arms of someone else. This does not mean you are taking some of her blame. It does mean, however, that there may be deeper relationship problems on which to focus.

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